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 The present invention provides a needle guard for handling a medical needle, an assembly of the needle guard and the medical needle, and a method of using the needle guard to safely insert and/or retract the medical needle from a patient, and in the case of infusion needles into and out of the access port of a vascular access device within the patient.
 In the modem age of AIDS, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases, needle-stick injuries pose a grave concern to the medical field. It is therefore not surprising that various safety devices have been proposed to make the use of medical needles in general, and infusion needles in particular, safer for the clinician to use. Some examples of such devices are found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,537,255 to Raines, U.S. 2002/0169425 to Guzzo et al., U.S. 2002/0072716 to Barrus et al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,261,259 to Bell, U.S. Pat. No. 5,951,522 to Rosato et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,584,813 to Livingston et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 4,631,058 to Raines. In addition, a hinged-wall system has been proposed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,531,704 to Knotek. Nevertheless, because the consequence of needle-stick injuries can be particularly severe, there is an ongoing demand to optimize the safety of handling needles.
 When a patient requires constant or prolonged administration of a fluid or a drug dissolved in a fluid medium, it is known to implant a vascular access device to provide a convenient method of administration. Such devices are also used to remove fluids from the patient. Typically, the vascular access device is implanted subcutaneously adjacent to an area to be treated, such as the chest or the abdomen.
 Vascular access devices usually comprise an access port or septum positioned under the skin. To administer or remove fluids, an infusion needle called the Huber needle is often used. The Huber needle often has an approximately 90 degree bend which separates the needle into a first section with a sharpened or pointed end, and a second section with an end for connecting to medical tubing that is capable of being connected to a source of fluids. The end of the second section may or may not be specially adapted with connectors to make connection to a medical tube easier. When used, the pointed end is pressed down in a substantially perpendicular direction relative to the surface of the skin over the access port. Once inserted, the second section is substantially parallel to the skin surface, and can be secured, by for example, tape to the patient.
 It is well-known that Huber needles are particularly difficult to insert and/or remove from the access ports. This presents a particularly dangerous hazard to clinicians, because a force sufficient to insert or remove the needle may also cause an accidental needle-stick injury to the clinician. Moreover, when such needles are used with a vascular access device, they also have a “rebound” or “bounce back” effect, wherein to counter a sufficient force to remove such needles, a corresponding opposing force is exerted which causes the needle to rebound or bounce back towards the origin of the force. This rebound effect increases the likelihood of an accidental needle-stick, when the clinician attempts to remove the needle from the access port.
 Moreover, medical needles, such as hypodermic needles, phlebotomy needles, intravenous needles, etc., have also been implicated in substantial number of accidental needle-stick injuries. It would be useful to have a device which will confine the point of the needle within a relatively tight space until the needle is inserted into a patient, and will permit the needle to be inserted with minimal or no exposure outside of the tight space, or the patient. It is presumed that one of ordinary art would understand that, for the most part, the needles referred to herein are hollowed medical needles with an opening on each end to allow passage of fluid therethrough.
 The present invention provides a needle guard comprising a base having a needle well to guide the point of a needle into the patient and, at the same time, for confining the pointed end of a needle within the walls of the needle well until the needle is inserted into a patient. The base is connected by at least a connector to a handle. The connector is constructed to allow the needle to be pushed beyond the needle well thereby exposing the needle. The connector also limits the extent to which the needle can be retracted. This prevents the needle from being pulled past the needle well as the needle is extracted from the patient. As a consequence of the construction, the point of the needle is substantially maintained within the needle well, except when the needle is inserted into the patient. The present invention also provides a method and an assembly for safely handling a medical needle by keeping the needle point confined within the needle well prior to insertion into a patient, and after retraction from the patient.
 The invention is described by the following examples. It should be recognized that variations based on the inventive features disclosed herein are within the skill of the ordinary artisan, and that the scope of the invention should not be limited by the examples. To properly determine the scope of the invention, an interested party should consider the claims herein, and any equivalent thereof. In addition, all citations herein are incorporated by reference.
 The needle well
 A needle holder
 When used, the clinician uses base
 When activated, and the clinician presses down against handle top
 To remove the needle from the patient, a clinician can secure the bottom of the assembly by pressing down on base top
 In a preferred embodiment, the needle guard is molded as an one-piece plastic part. However, different materials approved for medical devices may be used. In addition, different components of the needle guard may be made separately, then secured to one another. Although not shown, the guide may be merged into the base, such that the base provides a sufficiently long needle well to prevent the needle point from being accidentally exposed during retraction from the patient.